Premier League Review – Matchday 15
Saturday 26th December, 2020
Leicester City 2 Manchester United 2
Leicester were unchanged from the team which beat Spurs, whilst United made one change - Bailly replacing the injured Wan Bissaka at the back. Lindelof played at right back.
Marcus Rashford made a terrible miss after only a minute when Fernandes crossed from the left of the area. Rashford had time to pick his spot with a header but missed the gaping target. Vardy had a chance at the other end from Justin's cross, but he was tightly marked, and it was a chance and not a glaring opportunity.
Rashford did score in the 23rd minute with a shot to the left of Schmeichel. The goal followed a United throw on the right and a move in which the ball was helped towards Rashford by James and a stretched touch by Fernandes. Harvey Barnes equalised with a fine 20-yarder after United failed to clear their lines and Maddison intercepted before teeing up Barnes. (31 mins)
In the second half Leicester had a free kick in a dangerous position when Bailly was pointing to a team-mate and had the ball hit his arm, luckily just outside the area. Maddison's free kick went out for a corner off the wall. Rashford was through and hit a powerful right-footed shot which Schmeichel saved very well with a dive to his right. Martial was allowed to continue a run from an offside position before "scoring", only to then see the offside flag, which was supported by VAR.
Bruno Fernandes gave United a lead in the 79th minute when substitute Cavani slipped the ball through, allowing Fernandes to take the ball forward and beat Schmeichel with a right foot shot. It looked as if Vardy had equalised 6 minutes later as he stepped a yard or two back to collect a cross by Perez from the right, beating De Gea with a low right footed shot. However, his shot had been off target, but was deflected in by United sub Tuanzebe.
This was Leicester’s first Premier League draw of the season.
Aston Villa 3 Crystal Palace 0
Villa made light work of beating Palace despite losing Tyrone Mings with a second yellow card offence just before half-time. Villa climbed to sixth place overnight and have two games in hand on most rivals.
Bertrand Traore led a move after five minutes feeding the ball to Watkins whose shot was well saved but parried by Guaita, with Traore on hand to follow-up and score convincingly. Traore hit the post with another shot after 17 minutes. The same player led a Villa counter-attack after a Palace corner before passing to Grealish who went on and had his shot saved by Guaita.
A Matty Cash challenge in the area upon Van Aanholt was subject to scrutiny by VAR and referee Anthony Taylor, but Cash had legitimately got the ball and there was no foul. Mings got his first yellow card along with Wilfried Zaha following a spat between the two after a foul in midfield. The second yellow followed a foul on Zaha just inside the Villa half.
Villa went two up in the 66th minute. The goal followed a foul by Milivojevic upon El Ghazi and a free kick floated into the area from the right flank. Watkins’ header rebounded off the underside of the bar and Kourtney Hause followed up to head in, well over the line with the goal confirmed by technology.
Villa’s third goal followed a Palace attack where a clearance by Hause was picked up by Grealish inside his own half down the left flank. Grealish went on and fed the ball to Watkins, who carried the ball too far to his right. Watkins passed back to El Ghazi who scored with a powerful right footed shot inside Guaita’s right post. The ten men were three up! (76 mins)
Watkins had a couple of late chances. The first was hit straight at the keeper who saved. The second followed a clever pass by Grealish before the Villa striker beat Guaita but the keeper was able to gratefully pick up the ball after it rebounded into his hands off the post.
Fulham 0 Southampton 0
Scott Parker had to self-isolate due to COVID-19, so Stuart Gray and Matt Wells filled in, although they were in contact with the manager who can return to work in time for the Spurs game. Southampton made four team changes including Diallo for the suspended Romeu and Shane Long for the injured Danny Ings. Andersen was available for Fulham who had successfully appealed his red card shown in their game at Newcastle.
Anguissa failed to take advantage of a good chance in front of goal midway through the half before at the other end Ward-Prowse hit the frame of the Fulham goal from a free kick. That was the only significant action of the first half.
Fulham left back Antonee Robinson picked out Cavaleiro with a great cross after 54 minutes, but Cavaleiro’s header was off target. Robinson had been free in a scoring position on the left of the area after a good Fulham move a couple of minutes earlier but had been closed down well by the "Saints"' defence.
Shane Long had a shot from 25 yards well saved by Areola after 67 minutes. He had the ball in the net in the 75th minute with a great finish, but he had been offside when the ball was crossed from the left. Walcott had the ball in the net with a sharp finish from Adams' cross, but Adams had received the ball in an offside position, so VAR struck that "goal" off.
Fulham substitute Mitrovic might have snatched a winner in added time when he met a Robinson cross, but his left foot shot passed wide.
Arsenal 3 Chelsea 1
Against form and all the odds, Arsenal won a first Premier League game since 1st November, and against an out of sorts Chelsea side which has now lost three out of four Premier League games. Mikel Arteta put his trust in youth with 19-year-old pair Saka and Gabriel Martinelli and 20-year-old Emile Smith-Rowe all starting. Arteta also gave Pablo Mari a start in the centre of defence, playing next to Holding. Lacazette started up front with Aubameyang on the bench. Gabriel was self-isolating. Willian and David Luiz were also unwell, although none have tested positive for Covid-19.
Both James and Chilwell were deemed fit to play, despite recent injury problems. Mount clipped the outside of Leno’s left post with a free kick after 12 minutes. Arsenal had a penalty after 33 minutes when Tierney got into the area and was brought down by James. Lacazette scored from the spot. It was 2-0 a minute before half-time after Saka was fouled by Kante and Xhaka crashed home a free kick from a good 25 yards out.
Werner, who hasn’t scored since early November, was one of two Chelsea players replaced at the interval. Saka made it 3-0 in the 56th minute with a right foot shot from the right side of the area which surprised everybody, not least Mendy in the Chelsea goal. Smith-Rowe provided the final pass. The goal might have been intended as a cross, but it went into the goal off the inside of the back post.
Mendy did well to get down and save low from Martinelli after Tierney had made a good run before passing to his right. Mendy made a poor attempted clearance to the feet of Lacazette, but then redeemed himself with a good save from Lacazette’s quick shot. Elneny hit the underside of the bar and Mendy had to save from Holding after the resulting corner.
Abraham scored what proved to be a consolation chested goal after 85 minutes from Hudson-Odoi’s cross, but that had been initially disallowed before VAR overruled the offside decision and decided the goal should stand. Thiago Silva headed wide with a good chance before referee Michael Oliver awarded Chelsea a penalty when Jorginho went down under Pablo Mari’s challenge. Leno saved Jorginho’s spot-kick, hit too close to the keeper who dived to his left.
Manchester City 2 Newcastle United 0
City were missing both Kyle Walker and Gabriel Jesus who have tested positive for Covid-19 and who will therefore be absent for the holiday programme. Nathan Ake came in for Walker, whilst Ferran Torres was City’s front man. Newcastle played a 5-4-1 formation but failed to hold out.
Gundogan scored City’s first goal in the 14th minute after Sterling cut the ball back from a position close to the right post. Gundogan fired home with power from 8 yards. Darlow could only palm away De Bruyne’s dipping shot five minutes later, but Newcastle cleared after this threat. The Newcastle keeper closed down and saved well from De Bruyne after City broke forward from a Newcastle attack and Torres had sent de Bruyne racing towards goal.
Ederson’s first significant action came in the second half when he saved comfortably from a Murphy shot across his goal. City’s second goal followed a concerted attack and a cross by Cancelo which was inadvertently half-cleared by Fernandez to the feet of Torres who did not fail in front of goal. (55 mins) Bernardo Silva hit the outside of the post minutes later after Sterling had failed to score from a better position but hit the ball across instead of into the goal.
Ederson had a tougher save to make from Almiron’s shot which came from 25 yads out but forced the keeper to stretch to his right. After 81 minutes Cancelo crossed from the right and Darlow managed to save substitute Aguero’s effort at the back post.
Sheffield United 0 Everton 1
The “Blades”’ woeful season continues and with this 13th defeat they are 10 points off safety already and have the joint-worst start ever by any team in England’s top four leagues. Everton won a fourth consecutive league game and sit in second place, despite being without the injured Richarlison (concussion) and James Rodriguez.
The game was short of action until Ramsdale saved Iwobi’s 20 yard shot midway through the first half. Dominic Calvert-Lewin hit a decent effort just wide across Ramsdale’s goal a little later. Everton had all bar one of the first half chances with Burke hitting an effort across the goalmouth from a sharp angle on the left just before the whistle.
Everton scored the decisive goal ten minutes from time and it was Gylfi Sigurdsson who scored with a right foot shot from the edge of the area towards the right of goal after Bernard had passed to his right with Doucoure getting the final touch to tee up the former Spur. Egan tried a shot from 35 yards out, seeing Pickford slightly out of position, but the Everton goalie managed to push this over his goal. That was as close as Sheffield United came to scoring a goal.
Sunday 27th December, 2020
Leeds United 1 Burnley 0
There was controversy about this hard-won and welcome win for Leeds when novice Premier League referee Robert Jones blew his whistle for a foul by Ben Mee on Leeds goalkeeper Meslier before Ashley Barnes put the ball in the net for what would have been an equaliser. Because the referee had given the foul, VAR could not intervene with what most observers have said should have been a legitimate goal. Needless to say, and understandably Sean Dyche was sorely aggrieved about the incident.
The Leeds goal was scored from the penalty spot in only the fifth minute after Nick Pope caught Bamford and the ball in a hefty challenge. The referee pointed to the spot and his decision was supported by VAR Michael Oliver. Bamford took the spot kick and now has 10 Premier League goals to his name. The would-be equaliser came after a free kick after 18 minutes. Meslier came a long way out of his goal to try and collect and collided with Mee, who had his back to the keeper. Barnes hit a good shot from 15 yards into the net, but all to no avail.
Pope did save well with his foot from a Harrison shot which also took a touch by Bamford after good work on the right of the area by Raphinha. Pope saved low to his left five minutes before the break from Raphinha’s left foot shot inside the area.
In the second half there was a lot of backs to the wall defending by Leeds, who ultimately would get a welcome fourth clean sheet of the season. On a Leeds break Hernandez carried the ball a long way before hitting a shot from the edge of the area which Pope pushed around to his left. For all their second half dominance Burnley were not testing Meslier enough, but Barnes did hit a powerful shot which forced a two-handed parried save from the young keeper. Meslier saved well again from Barnes at his left post, after Tarkowski had fed Barnes the ball towards the right of the Leeds area.
West Ham United 2 Brighton & Hove Albion 2
David Moyes had 7 ever-presents in his Premier League side. Now he has six. Today he gave 20-year-old Ben Johnson a first Premier League start in the absence of the injured Masuaku. Fornals was the ever-present who stepped down to the bench. Club captain Mark Noble was making back-to-back starts for the first time this season.
There had hardly been a chance at either end midway through the first half with perhaps the closest to a goal coming when Welbeck nearly got on the end of a good cross by Solly March. Webster hit a header straight at Fabianski following a corner. Brighton were enjoying most of the possession. Trossard lifted a ball into the danger zone after 37 minutes but Fabianski beat Welbeck to the ball.
There had only been one shot on target, and that had been from Brighton, but Maupay broke the deadlock with a right foot shot inside the area after March had been supported by Dan Bird on the left. The ball fell to Maupay off West Ham defenders. (44 mins)
At the start of the second half David Moyes put on Lanzini and Yarmolenko for Noble and Bowen, whilst for Brighton Lallana was replaced by Alzate.
West Ham's first effort on target came very early when Haller headed into the arms of Sanchez in the Brighton goal. The "Hammers"' equaliser came on the hour after Yarmolenko crossed from the right and with Soucek and Lanzini in front of the keeper making a nuisance of themselves, the ball fell to Johnson who scored his first senior goal for the club.
Brighton regained the lead after 69 minutes following a corner and a cross from the left by March. Captain Lewis Dunk collected the ball and forced his way forward before slamming the ball into the roof of the net. He survived lengthy VAR scrutiny over what would have been an unfortunate handball decision.
West Ham equalised again in the 82nd minute from a Cresswell corner headed in by Soucek. March was in space beyond the back post when substitute Gross crossed from the right, but the shot was wide back across the goal.
Liverpool 1 West Bromwich Albion 1
It took Liverpool 12 minutes to take the lead. The goal followed a free kick passed by Fabinho to Matip, who lifted a ball into the area where Mane first took control with a deft touch before slamming home a shot. It was pretty much one-way traffic, but the next really close chance also fell to Mane who headed a Henderson ball just wide after 20 minutes. Mane was close again when Alexander-Arnold crossed but Furlong managed to clear off his feet for a corner.
Salah hit a shot just over the bar from 20 yards after a free kick taken from the left.
Early in the second half Henderson had a shot which curled away from Johnstone's left post. The keeper was rooted to his spot and well beaten. Sam Allardyce had obviously briefed his men to try to get forward more and after 59 minutes Grant had a shot on target, but this was a comfortable save for Alisson.
Liverpool lost Matip to injury and he was replaced by Rhys Williams. Sam Allardyce's plan nearly came to fruition after 71 minutes when Sawyers sent forward a long ball and Grant was goal-side of Williams, hitting a shot which Alisson saved.
West Brom equalised in the 82nd minute. Liverpool had conceded one or two cheap corners in this half and this goal came from one of them. Ajayi scored with a header that rebounded off Alisson's left post. The ball initially came back into play but then span behind the line before anyone could reach it. The corner had been taken short and the ball had been crossed by substitute Pereira.
Johnstone made a great left-handed save from Firmino's header in the last minute.
Sam Allardyce was the last Premier League manager to win a game at Anfield when he was with Crystal Palace in 2017. His team got a great result today too!
Wolves 1 Spurs 1
Tanguy Ndombele was your Spurs man of the match, and I'll offer you this comment from the many I received after the game:-
"Ndombele was unplayable in first 20 mins and scored to boot! He was doing incredible things! Harry Winks was buzzing around playing an important part also. However, Harry K & My Son looked a bit tired, which might explain why no second goal came. Although Traore was quicker than Davies the latter was like a rock."
Saturday 26th December, 2020
Leicester 2-2 Man Utd
A. Villa 3-0 C. Palace
Fulham 0-0 S'hampton
Arsenal 3-1 Chelsea
Man City 2-0 Newcastle
Sheff Utd 0-1 Everton
Sunday 27th December, 2020
Leeds 1-0 Burnley
West Ham 2-2 Brighton
Liverpool 1-1 West Brom
Wolves 1-1 Spurs
Premier League Table
P W D L F-A GD Pts
1. Liverpool 15 9 5 1 37-20 17 32
2. Everton 15 9 2 4 26-19 7 29
3. Leicester 15 9 1 5 28-19 9 28
4. Man Utd 14 8 3 3 30-23 7 27
5. Spurs 15 7 5 3 26-15 11 26
6. Man City 14 7 5 2 21-12 9 26
7. A. Villa 13 8 1 4 27-13 14 25
8. Chelsea 15 7 4 4 30-17 13 25
9. S'hampton 15 7 4 4 25-19 6 25
10. West Ham 15 6 4 5 23-21 2 22
11. Wolves 15 6 3 6 15-20 -5 21
12. Leeds 15 6 2 7 25-30 -5 20
13. Newcastle 14 5 3 6 17-24 -7 18
14. C. Palace 15 5 3 7 19-29 -9 18
15. Arsenal 15 5 2 8 15-19 -4 17
16. Brighton 15 2 7 6 18-24 -6 13
17. Burnley 14 3 4 7 8-20 -12 13
18. Fulham 15 2 5 8 13-23 -10 11
19. West Brom 15 1 5 9 11-30 -19 8
20. Sheff Utd 15 0 2 13 8-26 -18 2